What do a viral video and a stampede of animals have in common?
It's a mechanism that is also related to 'self-fulfilling prophecies', self-beliefs, anxiety and negative thinking in general.
It has to do with something called 'positive feedback'.
This is not verbal commentary, like 'you're doing a great job!'
Positive feedback is something that enhances or amplifies an effect.
In a stampede of animals, the abrupt movement and running of one animal gets detected by another, and another, and this effect continue to amplify until a stampede occurs.
Something similar can happen to a person in certain cases of anxiety.
In some cases, a person may have hyper-interoceptive awareness.
This means that they are very aware of fluctuations within their body, including their heart rate. their interpretation of these sensations may lead them to think something is wrong, that their body is not 'supposed' to do that.
Having this type of interpretation then creates a feedback loop of anxiety about what is wrong, which can lead to for example, a faster heart beat, which then leads to more anxiety.
Something that can have a balancing or correcting effect on a positive feedback loop is 'negative feedback'.
In the case of someone who may become anxious due to their heart beating fast (as an example), a negative feedback could include introducing thoughts that the body is doing something adaptive or beneficial.
A faster beating heart can also mean we are excited, engaged, alert and feeling alive.
I also talk about this idea of 're-appraising physiological signals' in my Neuroscience of Bravery Video
In this episode, we cover how positive feedback loops might be causing us challenges in our thinking, and what we can do to try to interrupt these feedback loops so we can feel more regulated and resilient.
Oliver Cameron - Visceral Sensory Neuroscience
Donella Meadows - Systems Change
Santa Fe Institute - Complexity Podcast
Laurence Gonzales - Surviving Survival
University of Wisconsin Madison study on negative interpretation of stress